In December of 2002, Yahoo! bought Inktomi for $235 million.
As things currently stand, Yahoo, MSN, and Google each receive about 30% of online search traffic. However, because Google’s search results are used for Yahoo! searches, Google actually captures about 60% of the market. Since the sale of Inktomi, we search engine optimizers have been collectively holding our breath waiting for Yahoo! to dump Google and get in bed with Inktomi for Yahoo! search. That would decrease Google’s stranglehold on search traffic and create more competition.
Where does Inktomi get its traffic?
Inktomi provides results for MSN search. Currently, when someone does a search on MSN, they get the following results:
– MSN’s own “featured sites” results (paid advertisers) (usually 1-5 results)
– Overture’s “sponsored sites” (pay-per-click advertisers) (usually 3 results)
– LookSmart’s “web directory sites” (anywhere from 0 to 50 results)
– Inktomi’s “web pages (leftovers)
Inktomi is also the back-up for Overture results (after Overture’s own sponsored links), and is used for a myriad of smaller web portals and search engines, such as About, BBC, Espotting, Goo, HotBot, and InfoSpace.
The good news for Inktomi is that MSN will be dropping LookSmart in mid-January of 2004, and replacing its results with Inktomi’s. Add that to the Yahoo! swap (Inktomi for Google), and Inktomi will go from having a very small share of search traffic to having almost 60% of the total.
Obviously, Inktomi is about to become very important, so I looked into Inktomi’s search results, in the hope of figuring out how to optimize for this born-again search company. The results however, were not very encouraging. There was a lot of doubling (the same site showing up 2 or 3 times), and a lot of spam. Mind you, there is a lot of spam in Google too (Spam is any web page that attempts to deceive a search engine’s relevancy algorithm, usually resulting in pages that are irrelevant to a user’s search).
The interesting thing was that the results differed a great deal from Google’s. This is good for the consumer (different results means real competition), but bad for the search engine optimizer. Ideally, a well-optimized site should show up in all the search engines, but Google and Inktomi have different ideas about relevancy. This means we will be seeing a lot of sites built twice: once for Google, and once for Inktomi. And more sites mean more spam.
Hopefully, in the end, the high-quality sites will come out on top of both engines. I imagine there will be either similar relevant sites, or different, but still relevant sites in both Google and Inktomi.
Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.